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Behind the Box Score: UCLA

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Danger, Will Robinson!

LSU v UCLA
I think he’s happy
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

One of the words thrown out a lot in the wake of LSU’s defeat to UCLA was “embarrassing,” and while I understand that fans were disappointed by the performance, perhaps we need to dial back that rhetoric a little bit.

Because upon looking at the cold, hard numbers of the game, it’s not nearly the disaster we’ve been lead to believe. Now, UCLA won, and it wasn’t a fluke in any way, shape, or form, but it also wasn’t an embarrassing beatdown. This game was still in contest going into the fourth quarter, when the wheels came off.

And that’s the power of recency bias. It’s the last thing we saw in the game, so the memory of that fourth quarter overpowers everything else, and we apply that memory to the whole game. In that case, we aren’t exaggerating, the fourth quarter really was that bad.

475-378. UCLA and LSU’s yardage totals. 100 yards is a lot, but it’s also not an avalanche. But it’s more interesting when you look a bit deeper at the number. Through three quarters, LSU had a slight edge in total yards: 300-294. That big UCLA advantage comes almost entirely from that dominant fourth quarter. In fact, a lot of the stats look like this.

48. LSU rushing yards. I mean, ugh. Know what is even worse? LSU had 48 yards rushing in the 3rd quarter by itself. So outside of that one quarter, LSU did not gain a single yard on the ground. LSU was at a mere 3 yards at the half, and went for -3 in the fourth as LSU got o far behind on the scoreboard that it abandoned the run in the fourth, not that it was working anyway. But you can at least see that the team tried to show some commitment to the run after the half.

0. UCLA punts in the second half. UCLA punted four times in the first half, including the first three drives. If you want to show the quick deterioration of the defense, this is it. They made stops early, but were unable to make a single stop in the second half, and that doomed a struggling offense.

9-148-3. Kayshon Boutte’s line. Well, something worked. He’s awesome.

30:00. Time of possession. It doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s rare that you see each team have exactly 30 minutes of TOP, and I thought y’all would at least like to know this game had a nifty statistical quirk like that. However, in the dominant fourth, UCLA has over 11 minutes of possession, putting the game away.

28.9. UCLA’s yard per completion. UCLA didn’t throw a lot, as Dorian Thompson-Robinson only went 9 for 16. But with 260 yards passing, when he connected, he connected big. UCLA averaged nearly 30 yards per completion, which is absurd. When LSU’s pass defense broke down, it really broke down. Considering last season, that is a massive concern.

1. LSU losses. LSU now sits at 0-1, and while I wouldn’t go as far as calling it an embarrassment, there were a ton of red flags. It’s up to the coaching staff to keep this contained to one game, and not infect the entire season.